Evaluate your expenses by prioritizing and recording them—to help you create a truly honest budget. Starting this before beginning your university studies will help you through the transition to student life. You’ll be able to see how your purchases and spending habits change and where you need to watch your spending. While you may be able to afford that $5 coffee today, you’ll have much greater demands on your wallet when you’re a university student.
Tuition and cost of studying
Find out the amount of tuition fees, incidental fees, ancillary fees and administrative fees that will automatically apply in your program. Also take the cost of your books and supplies into consideration and that this will have an impact on your budget at the beginning of each term. Finally, consider other factors like whether you’ll need a new personal computer or you’ll need to photocopy and print numerous documents on campus.
Cost of living
How much is your rent and will it change? Will you have a roommate or live on your own? Are you living in residence? Are you expected to pay your residence fees by a certain date? What are your plans for food and meals? Should you buy a meal plan? If so, which one? What bills will need to be paid every month (i.e., hydro, gas and electricity, tenant insurance, home or cellular phone service, Internet, television)? How much do you anticipate spending on personal expenses like haircuts and laundry? All of these items are part of living and will reduce your savings. It’s very important to put a lot of thought into how much you can reasonably afford to spend on each of these items and learn to distinguish between needs and wants.
Full-time uOttawa students residing in Ontario receive a uPass, which provides unlimited access to Ottawa’s public transportation system. Any other public transportation pass you purchase must be included as an expense. If you’re living on or near campus, you probably won’t need a vehicle. However, if you choose to drive your own vehicle, remember to consider all of the added costs, such as loan or lease payments, regular maintenance and oil changes, insurance, gas and parking. If you decide to ride your bike to school, budget $40 per term to lock your bike indoors or pay the one-time $15 (refundable) fee for a security card to access the free bicycle parking facility.
Be sure to get healthcare coverage if you aren’t covered by either your parent or guardian’s health plan or by the student health plan. Keep in mind any fees related to your vision, such as glasses, contacts and eye exams. While you can’t plan for unforeseen illness or injury, you can at least plan for regular appointments and prescriptions.
Savings, loans and banking fees
Include any existing financial obligations like loan payments, credit card payments as well as contributions to your savings plan and premiums for life or disability insurance. Check if any banking fees are withdrawn from your account—as a student, you should be able to find a bank that offers no-fee student products.
Try to have an emergency fund of $500 throughout your studies. This is an emergency fund to help you in times of need so you won’t have to fall back on credit or loans.
Leisure and entertainment
While it’s important to take a break from your studies and enjoy yourself, you should always look for ways to do this at little or no cost. Don’t forget about other expenses too, such as pet-related costs (veterinary visits, vaccines, food and accessories), music downloads, movies, sporting events and dining out. You should also consider travel in this section, including the cost of any airfare, car rentals, gas, hotel or meals while on vacation. If you go home between terms, remember to budget for the cost of this travel.